The Duke City Gladiators are embarking on the second leg of their four-game road stretch with a key Champions Indoor Football game tonight against the Amarillo Venom.
It’s a key game in that the Gladiators, 5-2 overall and 3-2 (.600) in CIF play, are tied for the fourth and final playoff berth in the nine-team league with Dodge City (6-4, .600) and Salina (6-4, .600). Amarillo (5-3, .625) is tied for second.
“We’re the only team in the league that controls our destiny to get the top seed,” said coach Dominic Bramante, whose squad beat the Venom 45-38 at Tingley Coliseum on April 18.
Since the Gladiators play only nine CIF games – three fewer than everyone else – because of their late entry into the league, if they win out they’ll be 7-2 (.778). The best record anyone else can have is if Wichita or Sioux City finishes 9-3 (.750). Winning percentage would be the determining factor in the standings.
Duke City’s most recent game was a 64-61 win at San Angelo on May 2 when Zeke Arevalo hit a 48-yard field goal with 23 seconds left after the Gladiators had blown a 15-point fourth-quarter edge.
“All that matters is that you win – you don’t get extra points for winning by 30,” said Bramante.
He also said the Gladiators are particularly wary of the Venom, their nearest league rival.
“Amarillo thinks they owe us,” he said. “They’re the hottest team in the league right now. We’re going into a hornet’s nest, no doubt about it.”
The Gladiators have three of the top offensive players in the CIF. New Mexico State alum Seth Smith leads the league with 61.0 yards rushing per CIF game, QB Kasey Peters is best with 228.4 yards passing an outing, and receiver James Cleveland averages 5.7 catches a game, tied for the most. He also has seven touchdowns.
Peters will be working with a new center. Jackson Dallas left the team after last week’s bye and will be replaced by 6-foot-1, 275-pound Estevan Lucero. Bramante said Lucero is the strongest guy on the team.
NEXT HOME GAME: Duke City doesn’t play again “at home” until its season finale June 6 against Salina. But since Tingley is unavailable through July, Bramante said the team continues to research its options.
And, in case anyone has any wild ideas, league commissioner Darlene Jones said she is adamantly opposed to a team playing by indoor rules in an outdoor setting the way NHL conducts Winter Classics.
Also, with Tingley being tied up by movie production, the Gladiators had to look elsewhere for a practice site. This week it was on a field near Hope Christian High School, where the team opened preseason drills.